Five Ways to Pick up Your Practice by Picking Up the Phone

135547411-300x200You’ve probably seen the articles: With everyone texting and emailing and otherwise digitally communicating, telephone communication is dying, at least for business purposes.

But that’s simply not true in the legal world. The telephone is still far and away the most popular method of contacting an attorney: 74 percent of legal consumers choose to call an attorney rather than fill out an online form or send an email.

This finding comes from FindLaw’s recently conducted U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey. FindLaw commissioned this updated research to look at the online consumer legal market and to better meet the needs of law firms and their customers. (FindLaw conducted similar research in 2010 and 2011.)

You might be one of those people who have developed “telephobia.” And you might have good reason to fear the phone. There’s no guarantee that the caller’s case will be relevant to your firm, and it nearly always interrupts your other work.

But the numbers don’t lie. Firms that don’t treat their telephone as their top source of customers are basically sending business elsewhere. In short: You must answer your phone.

After all, legal issues are usually complex and best explained verbally. What’s more, every consumer is a little different, even if his or her problem sounds familiar to you initially. That said, nearly all legal consumers are looking for a human touch during the challenging times they’re most likely facing. That human factor can translate directly into new clients by helping you build trust, considered the “most important” factor for choosing an attorney by 11 percent of consumers in the survey.

So how can you make your caller’s telephone experience a positive one?

  1. Make sure you craft a positive customer experience during the call. This is particularly important as social networks grow as a resource for legal consumers—call it digital word of mouth. Negative experiences can damage your online reputation faster than you might think.
  2. Make sure you and your staff follow good telephone practices. Answer by the third ring, smile while speaking and take meaningful messages with contact information.
  3. Be responsive. Make sure your firm’s voicemail is checked first thing every morning. If your practice deals with a lot of DUI or alcohol-related incidents, have a plan for taking calls outside of business hours and on weekends.
  4. Follow up on messages within 24 hours or sooner. Don’t let that lead cool off or go to a competitor.
  5. “Secret shop” your own firm. Call your firm’s number and hear what a potential client experiences. Did the person answering provide a good customer experience?

Of course, online information forms and email opportunities are still valuable. They are still used by a portion of consumers, and your marketing needs to be viewed as a whole. Every opportunity to contact your firm adds to the big picture of a successful practice, but the phone is still king. And old-school phone etiquette remains one of the best methods for attorneys to build trust—and clientele.

If you would like to learn more about how FindLaw can help your firm generate more phone calls – and retain those potential customers – please contact us for a free consultation.

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